2008 MUTL

Vincent Rono runs 3:57 mile at Meet under the Lights
By LouisianaRunning.com Press Release / May 27, 2008 12:00 PM

Enjoying a relatively cool summer to date, the morning of 24th seemed to be the end, as it now appeared the Louisiana summer had finally taken its hold. Having a nice drink of the local air, the author slowly pedaled his way to work sweating profusely in the heat and the anticipation of what kind of toll the conditions would play on the runners which were scheduled to be arriving later in the afternoon.

As the sun slowly set , runner’s from multiple towns across Louisiana , as well as the generations began trickling into Covington, Louisiana for the 4th running of The Meet Under the Lights. Despite previous years of having to kick up dust as one rounded the cinders, cinders which dated all the way back to the 20‘s when the track was built, St. Paul’s would now boast of a newly renovated 8 Lane mondo surface, putting it in a category with only a handful of tracks in the nation.
Runner’s lined up this humid evening, which was now fading into night, to kick things off with the first race this new track had seen, the start of the boys and girls combined 3200 meters. Like previous years, conversations and smiles were exchanged moments before the start, being silenced only by the gun. With the introductory pop, the runners rounded the first turn, and to everyone’s surprise, five footed nothing Malia Cali of St. Thomas came rocketing through leading a contingent of boys, being timed at seventy seconds through the first quarter. Most of the boys she led had claimed state titles in the past, yet un-intimidated by these boys, the titles they owned, or the pace in which they now set, stayed with them all the way to the mile (5:03) before slightly falling off to finish in 10:39, citing later a stitch to be the culprit.
In the boy’s 3200 race Louisiana Tech’s Nathan Davis cruised in for the victory with a time 9:50, while second place’s Brian Lozes, a recent St. Paul’s graduate bound for Tulane in the fall, crossed the finish line in 10 minutes 16 seconds, a PR by over 30 seconds.
Following the 3200, runners made their way to the end of the straight to take part in the distance runner’s 100 meter dash. This was highlighted by the superb speed of Sean Swanner, who beat fellow runners from the stance (lacking blocks), to edge a late charge by SLU’s Kyle Golden, even putting his arms up in celebration from the overwhelming joy of gaining the title and becoming the stadium’s new record holder with a time of 12.33 seconds. This amazing victory came only minutes after his double in 2 mile where he unselfishly rabbited runners with Mr. Chautin before dropping out meters before the finish line.
Tension was beginning to build as the slower heat of the mile made its way to the track. Hand picking a few runner’s to run with our invitational runners, I approached the runners now on the track to see if any of them would also like to try their luck in the “fast” heat. Having quite the lighter complexion, but not so much of a lighter build, I sensed a little bit of an intimidation as the runners in front of me all graciously declined my request. The first heat of the mile, saw St. Thomas Aquinas’ Randy Willis win in 4:50.


Dead silence. All Eyes to the track. Six runners lined up 10 meters back from the start. While the meet announcer, Steve Schoenwald who is that all too familiar voice from the Mobile Meet of Champions announced the field. Introducing the names of the runners as each jogged forward to the line. “In lane six, hailing from Fountainebleau High School, the 3rd place finisher in the mile from the Class 5A State Championships, with a PR of 4:19 ….. JEFF SANDERS! In lane 5 hailing from Jesuit High School in New Orleans with a PR of 4:22, and the 4th place finisher in the 5A state mile…… KEVIN FITZGERALD! In Lane 4 from Baton Rouge Louisiana, with a PR of 3:49 for 1500 meters, and a participant from the first Meet Under the Lights…… ANDREW HUSTON! Lane 3 – Hailing from Uganda, now training at the University of South Alabama where he garnished a 4th place finish in the 2006 NCAA 5000 meters…… TONNY OKELLO! In Lane 2 the 2006 NCAA Champion at 1500 meters, qualified for the Kenyan Olympic Trials in the event, with a PR of 3:59 for the mile VINCENT RONO!!!!!”
As the runner’s took their respective places on the line the spectators pushed their way to the fences and the infield to get as close a view as possible – with growing anticipation and excitement of the barrier they hoped would go down in minutes. Many this night had traveled great distances to witness what they hoped would be their first ever sub 4 minute mile. Very few of these times had ever been run on Louisiana soil, making tonight’s event a bit of a special occurrence.
Bang!, the small field of runners bolted from the start, being led by SLU’s Kelphys Kemboi, who tonight was playing rabbit duties for fellow friends Rono and Okello. Going around the first turn heading into the back straight, it was Kelphys, Rono, Okello, Wolf, Sanders, and FitzGerald clumping together in a short lived pack. They approached the quarter mark with the crowd enthusiastically clapping as they whipped through in 57 seconds. There was a real excitement building as the African group broke from the rest of the field in the next lap and continued to hammer the pace clocking 1:58 through the half mile. Steve Schoenwald then began to point out over the PA about how they had a good one going but was barely heard as the crowd was now completely absorbed in the race as if they too were running it.. The crowd was all on their feet as Vincent came around in the bell lap to hit 2:59. From my point of view, high in the bleachers, I began to see signs of fatigue as Vincent hit the back straight – 300 to go looking as if he was finally starting to feel the weight that he realized he was now moving. A momentary doubt crept into my head that he might just miss the mark – however, this doubt was immediately put to rest when his buddy Kelphys came running to his side in the infield. At this point, Vincent came alive from his momentary nap, and found a gear which was just breath taking to witness. He began moving with 200, and by 100 resembled that of a sprinter with arms flying high completely ripping through the final meters with his eyes focused on the clock. The populace was all on their feet crowding the line: screaming and leaning to behold the clock as it ticked 3:55, 3:56…3:57!!!!

He had done it!!!… Crushing the mark all had come to see … and running the second fastest mile recorded on Louisiana soil – second only to Dave Whottles 3:56 (1970’s).

Overwhelmed by his new PR Vincent was all smiles as he took a 19 meter victory lap to the crowd’s delight.

The Meet under the Lights was concluded with Kyle Golden’s opening leg on the 4×800 being timed at 1:59, a PR, and season best by 6 seconds. New Orleans runner’s of Sarah Harelson and Kristin Bernick participating in the DMR, 4 x800, and 4 x400 thanking me for letting “Old People” compete on the track once again, and team Marvel taking honors in the 4 x400 outdistancing Team Felipe, Team SPS HAS BEENS, Sanford and Sons, and a team lead by Sean Swanner and Richie Chautin.

Thanks to all who came out to help support and make Meet Under the Lights success!



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